Miraculously, Roudan led his team through the line of fire. On the outskirts of the dome were a dozen watercrafts. Many other cadets unsuccessfully tried to flee the scene in one of them. Upon embarking on the watercraft, Shevchenko realized it was stuck and they could not proceed. Roudan scanned the area to see that the other cadets could not budge either. He quickly dove under water to discover the boat was chained to a wooden post.
Roudan emerged from under the boat and summoned Yoshida to bring a laser pistol with him. The men dove deep beneath the ocean to the bottom of the wooden post. No amount of wrestling would unravel the chain. Yoshida blasted through the metal with his pistol. In just four shots, the chain was broken. Roudan was impressed by Yoshida’s skill with such a weapon.
Once free, the team set sail for the lighthouse. Fortune was on their side, as the sky was clear enough for them to a visible beam of light far off in the distance. The moment they reached the other side of the beach, more terror awaited them. They watched in horror as insects and birds were blown to bits by hidden explosives buried in the sand. Roudan instructed them to tread lightly.
The stone lighthouse rested on top of a jagged cliff. In no time, the team scaled a rocky mountain wall. Roudan and Yoshida cleared the entryway so the others could safely go in. They climbed an old rickety wooden staircase into a what appeared to be a storage room. The dankly musty scent made everyone physically ill. Each team member cautiously sifted through crates to find another clue.
Farouk found another map, this time with coordinates stapled to it.
“I think this map will lead us down the cliff beneath the lighthouse,” he said.
With a fueled desire to redeem herself, Shevchenko hastily grabbed the map.
“Let me see,” she said.
The rest of the group waited for her to deliver any kind of new revelation about their mission. She could feel their eyes burn a hole through her soul in anticipation. Alas, there was nothing in particular that stood out to her as noteworthy. She flinched as Yoshida scornfully snatched the map and proceeded down the steps. Farouk and Savoi followed without so much as a word. All that remained was Roudan’s empathetic gaze.
The team left the lighthouse and scaled down the other side of the mountain, only to encounter another attack. Mini drones fired lasers from every direction in the sky. Savoi read the map and determined they should follow an embedded path that shifted a stream of the ocean inside a cave. Everyone marveled at the inside of the cave, which was made of crystalized amethyst.
Thirty kilometers inside led them to a narrow tunnel.
Savoi squinted her eyes at the map.
“Whatever we need is on the other side of this tunnel,” she said.
Yoshida scoffed in protest. “You’ve got to be kidding, right? There’s no way in hell I can fit through there.”
“Impossible!” Roudan exclaimed.
Farouk slumped against the wall. “There is no way I will go in there alone,” he said.
“I doubt I can fit through myself,” Savoi shrugged.
Finally, Shevchenko felt a surge of superiority among her peers.
“Never fear, friends. Clearly, I am the best candidate for this mission,” she said, without hiding an ounce of smugness. She shoved past Yoshida and Roudan and rudely seized the map from Savoi.
The men were taken aback by her ill-mannered behavior, but to her dismay, Savoi remained oblivious. She glanced at the map, then at Savoi.
Savoi smiled warmly and said, “No doubt you can do it. With your flat chest and ass, this tunnel should be a cakewalk.”
There was no hint of malice in her voice, but Shevchenko could feel nothing less than slighted. It only made matters worse that the men snickered in agreement.
Roudan decided it was best to break the tension.
“How will she communicate with us while inside the tunnel?” he asked.
“With the earpieces and the radio device,” Savoi chimed.
“Uh oh,” Farouk murmured as he sifted through the backpack.
“What do you mean, uh oh? What’s wrong?” Roudan asked.
“I left the radio on the watercraft,” Farouk stuttered.
Yoshida banged his fist against the wall. “You idiot, how could you be so careless at a time like this? I should kick your mousy little ass. You’ve been a brat all day,” he said.
Farouk whimpered in fear of being struck by Yoshida, but Savoi stood between them.
“It was an unintentional mistake. I asked him to find any other tools that might’ve helped you two break the chain to set the boat free. If you want to hit someone, let it be me,” she said.
All the rage dispersed from Yoshida’s heart. He sobered as he recalled how beautiful Savoi looked. The intensity in her eyes displayed she would not back down. He quietly conceded, then looked to Roudan for a resolution.
“Someone has got to go out to the watercraft to man the radio. Otherwise, we’re just as stuck as we were back in the dome,” Roudan said.
“I’ll go,” Savoi offered.
Roudan grabbed her arm as she turned to leave.
“I don’t think that’s the best idea,” he said.
“Why not?” she asked.
Roudan gently placed his large hands on her shoulders.
“No disrespect to you, Savoi. You’ve been a tremendous asset in this ordeal.” He waited for her to nod before he continued. “I noticed you aren’t the fastest runner when we ran out of the dome. Yoshida and I can cover you from the drones, but I know we need someone who can run at maximum velocity.”
Shevchenko smirked at the notion that there were at least two things Savoi could not do better than her.
“Can we hurry this along? Obviously, I haven’t got all day to go through this tunnel,” she said.
“I nominate the mouse to go,” Yoshida interjected. He nodded towards Farouk. “Besides, we wouldn’t be in this dilemma if he had been more mindful.”
Farouk swallowed a huge gulp, then looked at Savoi. He was blown away by her generosity and kindness during the entire endeavor. He resolved to make up for his shortcomings.
“I will go,” he said, though his body trembled.
Savoi leaped to hug him until he became still. She spoke in her native tongue, then said, “We will cover you.”
As Shevchenko made her way through the narrow tunnel, the rest of the team departed from the cave. Roudan, Yoshida, and Savoi took their laser pistols and scaled back up the cliff. They each shot down drones while Farouk trekked to the watercraft. Once he retrieved the radio, communication with Savoi and Shevchenko was established through the earpieces.
Within a few minutes, another team of three cadets approached and attempted to detain Farouk. Savoi heard the scuffle through her earpiece and became concerned.
“I have to get to him. If we lose him, we’ll also lose touch with Shevchenko,” she said.
Yoshida barked at her. “Are you mad, woman? Why do you keep trying to save the mouse? He’s a cadet, just the same as us. If he can’t defend himself, he shouldn’t have been allowed to join the academy.”
“I have to do something,” she said, then turned to Roudan. “If I don’t, everything we’ve accomplished this far was all for naught.”
Roudan sighed heavily. “What do you propose to do, then? Even the fastest runner wouldn’t be able to scale down this mountain to get to him in time,” he said.
Savoi placed her pistol on the ground and took several steps backwards.
“I will not run. I will jump,” she replied with a tremble.
“Like hell you will,” Yoshida protested.
Savoi chuckled maniacally and sprinted forward before they could stop her. She got enough air to lunge off the cliff into the sky. Roudan and Yoshida froze in awe for a second, then erratically shot down more drones. Just as she descended midair, a laser grazed her left side. Somehow, she dove into the ocean instead of plummeting. Roudan’s weapon jammed right after that. Yoshida quickly kicked the remaining pistol over to him, without missing a beat.
A swam of drones flew over the watercraft and sprayed them with rapid fire. Beforehand, Savoi and Farouk tussled with the three cadets. Savoi tactically maneuvered so that she and Farouk were beneath the cadets when the lasers hit, which shielded them from the assault. Roudan and Yoshida provided cover and took out all the drones. In good fashion, Farouk returned to man the radio. Shevchenko safely infiltrated the narrow tunnel and retrieved a red flag with a skull sown on both sides.
General Benavides and his colleagues watched the proceedings in the war room on a wide-screen digital projector.
“We have an excellent front-running team this cycle,” he said with enthusiasm. “Calvary Academy has suffered many great losses, with the departure of elite soldiers. Now is the time to recoup the benefits of this newer generation and their abilities. Only the chosen few could promptly assemble a team of various talents to forge through a war zone and triumphantly conquer a mission. We have just witnessed the birth of the Alpha Squad. The rest of the cadets will have to follow suit if they want to graduate. Cadets Farouk, Savoi, Yoshida, and Shevchenko—with Roudan as the Skull Leader,” he concluded.
The meeting adjourned in agreement.
~The Waring Robins, Ch. 11 (con.)~